You can’t improve your business unless you know who is buying from it and why. Marketing helps a company accomplish this by communicating the value of its products or services, as well as distinguishing itself from competitors in an effort to attract new customers with every opportunity! Small business owners who understand marketing also comprehend the importance of having a well-defined marketing strategy and objectives. Simply stated, effective marketing creates a “buzz” and demand for a company’s products or services. It’s an opportunity for a business to identify potential customers, retain current customers, and convince both that what the company offers has inherent value to satisfy their needs and desires. At the same time, marketing enables a business to distinguish itself from its competitors.
Market research is worth the effort. Unfortunately, most business owners are so busy running the normal day-to-day operations they never take time to engage in market research that could significantly enhance their marketing strategy. A good marketing campaign starts with understanding current and prospective customers. This is accomplished with market research.
Market research is not about discovering groundbreaking new information. However, it does enable a business to learn what customers want, improve existing products or services, and attract new customers, the lifeblood of any business. Contrary to many beliefs, market research does not have to be elaborate, expensive, or require a market research firm to be hired. Any small business can conduct its own market research in a number of simple and inexpensive ways, such as obtaining feedback from customers, researching what the competition is doing and their pricing, talking to prospective customers about their needs, staying current with industry trends, and even establishing an advisory board to get a “fresh set of eyes.”
After initial market research has been completed, these additional tips can deepen an owner’s market knowledge and sharpen the marketing strategy.
Identify and clearly define market opportunities. First, determine what opportunities exist for the business and how these can be marketed and capitalized upon. Then ask the question, “Is the current marketing plan working for current opportunities?” If not, don’t delay in making changes. A business should take advantage of opportunities now rather than later.
Have a well-crafted, differentiated brand. Every business owner should ask, “How well is my company and products or services branded?” This question should be easily answered in specific terms. If not, the branding process should start by finding a straightforward idea that the business can use to define and differentiate itself, implement it immediately, and introduce it into the marketplace with the least possible effort.
Develop competitive pricing. It is simple to survey the competition to make sure pricing is competitive. Customers want value and benefits for the money they spend. All things being equal, customers will seek products and services with the lowest cost; therefore, a business must differentiate its products or services to command higher prices.
A custom marketing campaign for the target market. A marketing campaign may be good, but it may be ineffective for its intended purpose if off-target. It must be aimed at the target market composed of potential buyers. A marketing campaign must be reviewed periodically to make sure it is hitting the intended mark. It might be directed to more than the intended target (too broad) or not directed to all target audiences (too narrow). Marketing dollars must be spent wisely to hit the correct target to be most effective.
Test elements of a marketing campaign. One way of running a successful marketing program is to determine which components produce the most positive results. Only one component at a time should be changed. For example, make a change to a special offer, Internet landing page, or direct mail, then judge its impact on revenue, calls, website traffic, conversions, etc. This type of analysis can determine what marketing strategy and/or component works or doesn’t work.
Seek out new ways to generate marketing ideas. Everyone has a different opinion on marketing, and no one has all the right answers. Rather than relying on only one person’s judgment when it comes to marketing, involve employees, customers, business associates, vendors, etc., to generate new ideas. Consulting with interested parties can produce unique and creative ideas. Even sponsoring a “Marketing Think Tank” dinner can prove to be a great return on investment.
Don’t waste small business marketing dollars. Hit the mark every time and make the dollars work for the business!